By Alice Sternin
Madeline Bruckner, 26, of Commack, N.Y died May 1, at Glens Falls Hospital as a result of a white water rafting accident on the Hudson River near the North Woods Club in Minerva, according to hospital officials. She had been listed in critical condition since she was brought to the hospital April 28, 1990 at 4:30 pm. According to John Chambers, Department of Conservation Forest Ranger in Minerva, Bruckner was rafting with her husband and other rafters when the raft was pinned against a rock ledge and the occupants were tossed into the river. Chambers said Bruckner was found face down in the water. She was placed on another raft and brought to shore where CPR was administered. The victim was then carried about a mile to Elephant Rock, a huge rock in the middle of the river, where an airlift was planned.
Citizens Seek Help
Several rafters, guides and kayakers offered help, Chambers said, and Dr. Steve Lieberman of Mass., who had been rafting, directed the medical care until the rescue squads reached the victim.
According to reports, Minerva Resident Jim Gereau was at the accident site and ran back to the North Woods Club to call the state police. At about the same time, a kayaker paddled to North River and called 911 to dispatch the Minerva and North Creek rescue squads to Blue Ledges trail.
Chambers was on patrol in the North Woods Club area and responded immediately to the call, he said. Four other Rangers joined the search and rescue mission: Gary Roberts of Olmstedville, Forest Ranger Zone Supervisor; Ed Russell of Schroon Lake, Bill Houck of Brant Lake and Dave Brooks of Warrensburg.
EMT'S Called Into Action
James Canavan, Warren County Coordinator for Emergency Medical Services, also received the 911 call. Canavan said since he lives in Glens Falls and time was of the essence, he contacted Lee Smith, Deputy Fire Coordinator of Warren County, who lives in Brant Lake and could get to the scene faster. Smith arrived at the North Woods Club and set up a command communications post, and was joined shortly by Canavan. Roberts was also stationed at the command post and he coordinated the mission.
Minerva Rescue Squad
Meanwhile the Minerva rescue squad ambulance had arrived at the entrance to Blue Ledges trail. Greg Vanderwarker and Kerry Killon stayed at the ambulance with the radio, while Ellen Eager, Kathy Halloran, Patsy Sullivan, Harry Allen, Brian Badgley, Joe Gonyo, Ronnie Howe, Tom Savarie and John Swertner hiked through more than two miles of muddy, steep, difficult terrain with life-support equipment on their back.
The state police Life Flight helicopter was giving a training demonstration in Ticonderoga when they received the call to go to Blue Ledges for a search and rescue. When Chambers arrived at Blue Ledges, he learned the rescue was to be made at Elephant Rock, and he said he ran the two miles to that destination. The helicopter was unable to land at the rock, Chambers said, and other evacuation plans were made. The helicopter was low on fuel, so it left to refuel and returned to land on a field in the North Woods Club.
Victim carried for six miles
Word was received by the rangers and rescue squads from Roberts at the Communications Command post that Dunk Pond trail would be closer to where the helicopter was waiting and that would now be the evacuation route. Russell, Houck and Brooks, with Minerva rescue squad member Tom McNally took a litter and oxygen tank and proceeded down Dunk Pond trail. The victim was reached, placed on the litter, and carried over two miles by six men at a time who switched teams several times. Bruckner was not breathing on her own, Roberts said, so two life-support trained people were administering artificial ventilation as the litter was carried. By that time, Norman Malcolm Persons, captain of the Minerva rescue squad, had joined the men at the Minerva ambulance. Persons said that a hiker with a dislocated shoulder from a totally unrelated incident had been brought to Blue Ledges where Minerva's squad had had life-support equipment. The hiker was ambulatory, so he walked back to the ambulance with six members of the squad while three remained at the river in case the drowning victim might still be brought there.
North Creek EMT's help
All this time the North Creek ambulance was standing by on their side of the river in preparation for a possible evacuation at that location. According to Canavan and Roberts, the North Creek squad was released when the litter reached the Minerva side of the river, and they proceeded at once to Blue Ledges to get the dislocated shoulder victim. Several members of the North Creek squad then went down Dunk Pond trail to help carry the litter.
According to Roberts, he received a message from the litter crew that more oxygen was needed and relayed the message to the Minerva ambulance. Persons said he, Goreau and three visiting campers, Joe Sennich, Sr., Matt Sennich and Frank Kastle took life-support equipment and more oxygen from the helicopter and carried it about a mile down Dunk Pond trail to meet the litter. When the second portable oxygen tank went low, Persons said he contacted the Minerva ambulance, relocated by now at the North Woods Club. Swertner, who had just returned from Blue Ledges, proceeded down Dunk Pond trail with another tank of oxygen, which lasted until the litter reached the helicopter. According to Persons, it was determined that the victim needed an immediate IV which was administered by the Minerva squad before she was carried aboard the helicopter. Persons said he replaced a member of the Life Flight crew in order to establish medical control by radio from Glens Falls Hospital, and he was in constant contact with the emergency room doctor during the flight.
Persons said the flight took twenty minutes and the helicopter landed in the back parking lot of the hospital where an Empire ambulance was waiting to take Bruckner the last 300 yards to the emergency room.
According to Roberts, it was a six-hour rescue mission with four major organizations and about 50 people involved. Although it was "a logistical nightmare", Roberts said, "everyone worked together in a team effort to make the evacuation successful." Roberts added, "I want to compliment all those who participated in the rescue."